How can I tell whether my car runs on diesel or petrol? @KenyanTraffic
In the past, diesel cars were easy to spot: you could tell by the tractor-like sound of the engine! Modern diesel engines have made it a lot harder to tell the difference.
But the two types of engine are still completely different. And you can cause serious damage by putting diesel in a petrol car, or the other way around. Aside from draining the fuel tank, a mechanic might have to clean or replace the entire fuel injection system, which can cost a tidy some.
Your insurance most certainly won’t cover the cost, so you’ll have to foot the bill yourself.
So – how do you tell which fuel to put in and the logbook is out of reach?
Look for a sticker
Sometimes car makers put stickers in different places around the car to tell you which fuel to use.
Try opening the little ‘door’ over the fuel cap to see if there’s a sticker on the inside.
If you can’t find a label anywhere, then it’s time to look for another clue.
Check the model name
There might be a clue on the back of the car itself. Often, cars that have diesel engines will have a ‘D’ in the model name. For example, the name ‘Ford Mondeo TDCi’ tells you that the car is a Turbo Diesel with Common Rail Injection… not that anyone really needs to know what common rail injection is.
Car manufacturers use a lot of model names, such as ‘TDI’, ‘HDi’, ‘GTD’, ‘dCi’, ‘JTD’ and so on. If your car has a badge like this on the back with a ‘D’, it’s likely to be a diesel car.
See if the fuel pump will fit
If you’ve searched the entire car from bumper to bumper and still not found any clues, you may be tempted to just go ahead and fill up. This will require you to get out of the car and follow the attandant. What you might not know is that diesel pump nozzles are thicker than petrol ones. So putting diesel in a petrol car can be pretty difficult: if it feels like you’re really having to force a diesel nozzle into the ‘fuel neck’, it could mean the car uses petrol.
However, putting a thinner petrol nozzle into a diesel car is, sadly, very easy. And, because petrol doesn’t have any lubricating qualities (like diesel does), putting petrol into a diesel can be particularly bad for mechanical components such as the fuel pump.
Ultimately, if you’re still not sure what fuel to use, it’s best to contact an expert – before you fill up.
What to do if you get it wrong
We all make mistakes from time to time, so don’t panic if you realise you’ve put the wrong fuel in the engine. The most important thing to remember is not to start the car, even if the impatient driver behind you is getting frustrated. Starting the engine will begin the fuel circulating – and that can do some serious damage.
Ask the fuel station staff to help you move the car out of the way safely and then contact a qualified mechanic, who will help you get back on the road.